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When I’m Sixty-Four

July-August 2023

I would like to wish you all you a great summer and a very nice vacation, enjoying the freedom of the moment. I will close my office on July 7th

“When I’m Sixty-Four”

When I get older, losing my hair
Many years from now
Will you still be sending me a Valentine
Birthday greetings, bottle of wine? 
If I’d been out till quarter to three
Would you lock the door? 
Will you still need me, will you still feed me
When I’m sixty-four?

You’ll be older too
And if you say the word
I could stay with you

I could be handy, mending a fuse
When your lights have gone
You can knit a sweater by the fireside
Sunday mornings go for a ride
Doing the garden, digging the weeds
Who could ask for more? 
Will you still need me, will you still feed me
When I’m sixty-four?

Every summer we can rent a cottage in the Isle of Wight
If it’s not too dear
We shall scrimp and save
Grandchildren on your knee
Vera, Chuck and Dave

Send me a postcard, drop me a line
Stating point of view
Indicate precisely what you mean to say
Yours sincerely, wasting away
Give me your answer, fill in a form
Mine forevermore
Will you still need me, will you still feed me
When I’m sixty-four? 

“When I’m Sixty-Four” is a song by the English rock band The Beatles, written by Paul McCartney (credited to Lennon-McCartney) and released on their 1967 album Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. McCartney wrote the song when he was about 14, probably in April or May 1956, and it was one of the first songs he ever wrote.

Yesterday I turned 64.

Each of us has our own way of handling getting old. In the 1950s, turning 64 meant one had turned really old. Today many sixty-somethings are still in good shape and one could argue that the equivalent of being 64 in 1967 is now experienced at 74. The notion of aging, of being old, being young, feeling young, or feeling old, is very personal and depends on so many things. On the other hand, once you add the kind of job you do to the picture, thoughts turn to retirement, of the time when one stops working before dying. Common sense should dictate that manual workers retire earlier than people working in offices. In France, when retirement programs were linked to certain industries, that was common practice. One of the numerous reasons so many people demonstrated against the latest French retirement reform, which added two years to the age at which workers have the right to full retirement benefits, was that the measure did not differentiate among all the different situations in the labor force.

Then there are economic immigrants, whose bodies are often abused from an early age. For many, retiring at 64 means having worked for 50 years. Once they arrive in a Western country like France, they usually start out working at horrid jobs. After several years, they obtain a legal stay and can settle a tad more comfortably, but they often still work as manual laborers. The saddest thing I have seen in this regard is that many of these people worked for so long under the table, a.k.a. undeclared, that their credit with the national retirement system is insufficient for them to live on. Thus, they must continue to work, even if they are retired. This has become common enough that the media in France, the USA and other countries are covering this evolution of society.

About ten years ago, I helped a Filipina woman facing several major challenges at once. She held a carte spéciale because her employer was a diplomat in France. Her health insurance policy covered only the absolute minimum required. When I met her for the first time, she was battling breast cancer. In a matter of nine months, she obtained a private-life carte de séjour, gained access to the French public health care system, and started treatment for her cancer. For close to two years, her situation was my focal point until everything was settled and her remission from cancer confirmed.

Once she was declared to be in remission, I asked her if she could help me once a month by putting my column into HTML so it could be uploaded to my website in addition to being sent by email. Since June 30th, 2015, she has helped me do this except when she is in the Philippines or on a pilgrimage. She also works as a nanny and a cleaning lady, with seven employers scattered throughout Paris and its suburbs, and this is hard on her body. Our monthly meetings have changed the way she sees both her work, including what she does for me, and her worth. She came to be really good at this job. During the COVID curfew restrictions, her face beamed when I gave her the professional authorization to be out late, mentioning on my letterhead that computer assistant was her position.

This is the quote from the June issue that sparked some reactions which I found to be very interesting and I would like to share them.
“For what it is worth! At one point, one has to say that it was worth it. It meant going after dreams, and personal goals. In the eyes of many, it might not look like much. For them, it was not worth the effort. ‘For what it is worth, it was worth it for me.’ This is what I like to hear. Immigrants often never regain the social status or comforts that they had in their home country, but many tell me nevertheless that it was worth it. Let’s leave it at that.”

Last month, as we worked on sending out the June issue, she was quite moved when she read it.

That gave me the idea to ask her and other Filipina women to express how they feel about the statement “It was worth it.” I have always seen the Filipino motto as:
“Keep a low profile and get the job done.”

When Filipinas live away from the Philippines, whether in France, the USA or another place, they are there to work, earn money and support the rest of their family. In 2018, financial transfers from expatriates accounted for over 9.8% of the Philippines’ GDP.

Here is what my computer assistant told me about her own experience:
“Five years! My plan of staying here in France? I just wanted to try and see what life I could have here and then I planned to go back to the Philippines. Others say I am one of the luckiest people because I got a chance to come here to France, so I am giving it a try. It is not easy to be away from my family, but my income is much higher than what I earned at my job in the Philippines, so I guess it is worth it for me to stay for that time period. I didn’t know that five years could pass so fast and I got used to staying here. Many more years went by before I got sick. That time was the lowest point of my life as I was battling with my illness, trying to get my immigration status (legal papers) and was separated from my family. I kept asking myself if it was worth it to stay, given my situation, and then I met someone with the help of my employer. He guided me and helped me to cope with and overcome all my fears and problems until everything went well again in my life. Now I receive all my health benefits for free while holding nice, proper jobs at the same time. Is it worth the life that I chose? Yes, it has been WORTH IT! It is my choice to be in France; it is not just by chance.”

The hardships such women experience is mostly unknown. It is very rare for them to express how hard their life is. Even so, they almost all end up affirming, “It was worth it.” I respect and admire them for coming up with this evaluation. It is their life.

People commonly use the term “auto-entrepreneur” for working as an independent and running one’s own business. But it really just refers to a choice regarding how to pay social charges to URSSAF. There is a choice between the classic way, which is the normal way URSSAF collects money, and the “auto-entrepreneur” way, which involves a quarterly declaration and the payment of the related social charges, usually amounting to about 23%, for services related work. This side of running a business has evolved a lot in recent years. Before President Macron was elected, the classic status required two income declarations to be done: one sent to the tax office to calculate the income tax owed and one to URSSAF to calculate the social charges based on the profit made the year before, with some catching up done in the fall.

Since the spring of 2021, however, there has been only one income declaration, submitted to the tax office. That information is shared with URSSAF, which relies on it to make its calculations. When Americans think about how the Internal Revenue Service and the Social Security Administration have worked together for decades, they are often stupefied by the level of distrust that once existed between the two French administrative divisions. Mr. Macron promised during his 2017 presidential campaign to simplify and unify different entities of the administration doing the same thing. This proved true of health coverage, which was unified under the CPAM system as of January 1st, 2020. The retirement unification is still being worked on.

URSSAF recently sent a memo to everyone on its mailing list, regardless of the status the recipients have, explaining how the information from the tax office is used and how the social charges are calculated. This disturbed and worried a lot of people who think “auto-entrepreneur” is the only status that exists.

Here is a translation of the memo from URSSAF:
“Understanding the calculation of your contributions following your tax return

Between April and June, you declare your 2022 income on As soon as your declaration has been validated, the tax authorities forward it to URSSAF.

You will then receive the 2022 regularization document and the 2023 call for contributions. URSSAF has set up a dedicated website to help you understand the information contained in this letter.”

A client recently sent me this email:
“I really enjoy the history lessons you provide me. But overwhelmed by being at the Prefecture, I can’t remember the person who you told me was the father of French bureaucracy and taxation. I think you referred to Louis XI, but if you wouldn’t mind just pointing me in the right direction, I’ll really enjoy the research.”

My reply, “This king is rarely mentioned because he did nothing flamboyant. He did not build castles. During his entire lifetime, he acted as a statesman, building France as a unit, by defeating all his rebellious vassals and by creating a centralized structure, which later became the French administration.”

On May 1st, 1890, French unions commemorated these events by demonstrating in the streets to ask for an eight-hour workday. May 1st became a national holiday in 1948. The day is so protected by French law that any employee who is required to work that day gets three times the normal wage. Over the years, the holiday has been celebrated in various ways but it always ends with people marching down one of the large avenues or boulevards in Paris and most other cities in France.

Louis XI (3 July 1423 – 30 August 1483), called “Louis the Prudent” (French: le Prudent), was King of France from 1461 to 1483. He succeeded his father, Charles VII.

Louis entered into open rebellion against his father in a short-lived revolt known as the Praguerie in 1440. The king forgave his rebellious vassals, including Louis, to whom he entrusted the management of the Dauphiné, then a province in southeastern France. …

When Charles VII died in 1461, Louis left the Burgundian court to take possession of his kingdom. His taste for intrigue and his intense diplomatic activity earned him the nicknames “the Cunning” (Middle French: le rusé) and “the Universal Spider” (Middle French: l’universelle araignée), as his enemies accused him of spinning webs of plots and conspiracies. …

Without direct foreign threats, Louis was able to eliminate his rebellious vassals, expand royal power, and strengthen the economic development of his country. He died on 30 August 1483 and was succeeded by his minor son Charles VIII. ….

Eager to obtain information about his enemies, Louis created, from 1464, a net of postal relays all over France, which was a precursor to the modern French postal service.

Louis developed his kingdom by encouraging trade fairs and the building and maintenance of roads. Louis XI pursued the organization of the kingdom of France with the assistance of bourgeois officials. In some respects, Louis XI perfected the framework of the modern French Government which was to last until the French Revolution. Thus, Louis XI is one of the first modern kings of France who helped take it out of the Middle Ages. ….

Through wars and guile, Louis XI overcame France’s mostly independent feudal lords, and at the time of his death in the Château de Plessis-lèz-Tours, he had united France and laid the foundations of a strong monarchy. ….

Despite Louis XI’s political acumen and overall policy of Realpolitik, Niccolò Machiavelli criticized him harshly in Chapter 13 of The Prince, calling him shortsighted and imprudent for abolishing his own infantry in favor of Swiss mercenaries.

The office will be closed for six weeks over the summer holidays, starting on Friday, July 7th, in the evening and reopening on the morning of Monday, August 21st. As always, I will be reachable by email for emergencies and important matters. The service I offer of receiving mail for clients will continue while the office is closed. Unlike in recent years, I will be in the USA from July 19th to August 3rd. Of course, Sarah or I will honor the prefecture meetings already scheduled, as well as a couple of other engagements. It is also possible that my daughter, Lucille, will handle some situations as she is getting more and more involved in my business.

I would like to remind everyone there will be no August issue.

Best regards,


Your analysis of the situation is based on a misunderstanding of the law underlying such rulings. I fully understand what you want, but even though you are divorcing, this does not change the fact that your soon-to-be ex-husband has the same rights as you over the children and the judge take all the aspects of the situation into account before making a ruling.
There are two important issues to review in detail, explained below. But first, understand that you are not a prisoner of France: You can travel in and out of France as much as you want, and the decision to keep the children in France, where they currently have their primary residence, is a temporary one so that the procedure can go on and a final ruling can be made.
The issues:
I – There are four types of divorce proceedings, depending on the specifics of the situation.
II – Rulings about child custody must be based on what is considered to be in the children’s best interest.
I would like to explain these two points in detail so you have a better understanding of the overall situation.


A – The first is mutual consent divorce, which normally involves only a notaire; no outside authorities are supposed to challenge this agreement, which addresses the following issues:
Who keeps the family home?
How much is the child support?
How much is the alimony?
How are child custody and visitation rights organized?
It is evident that you are not going through this procedure.
The other three all involve the following sequence of events:
1 – Audience de non conciliation (non-conciliation hearing)
The judge hears both spouses and makes sure their positions regarding the divorce matches what has been filed, showing that these positions are irreconcilable and the divorce procedure must continue.
2 – Ordonnance de non conciliation (non-conciliation order)
All the parties know the proceeding, being contentious, is going to take a long time, so the judge rules on the most urgent issues: custody, child support and alimony. The judge almost always rules that the children must stay in France until the proceeding is over, or at least further advanced. This never precludes a final decision allowing the mother to move back to her home country with the children; many non-French mothers get the right to do this sooner or later.
Many ill-informed mothers shoot themselves in the foot by making a fuss over this type of ruling. Doing so increases the chances of losing custody or having the judge increase the scrutiny of the mother.
3 – Once this initial, temporary decision is issued, the normal court proceedings start. Both parties submit files detailing what they want. In the end, the judge rules. As noted above, this can take a long time; hence the provisional rulings mentioned in point 2.

B – The second type is when the spouses accept that the marriage has broken down: “divorce pour acceptation du principe de la rupture du marriage.” The parties agree on one thing, at the very least: to divorce. Whatever they cannot agree on is ruled on by the judge. I assume here that the parents do not agree on the terms of child custody.

C – The third type usually involves one spouse having abandoned the family home “divorce pour altération définitive du lien conjugal.” This is where one spouse leaves the other and asks for a divorce, and the other spouse refuses. If the non-French mother takes the children and moves out of the family home and the husband refuses the divorce, she cannot leave France or it would be kidnapping. The judge has to get to the bottom of the situation to understand whether the mother had valid reasons for moving out with the children.

D – The fourth type is “fault” divorce – divorce pour faute. Today this applies almost exclusively to domestic violence. If the mother can prove the violence with medical reports, or even better as part of a criminal investigation with doctors working under the prosecutor’s supervision, the mother can obtain custody as early as the non-conciliation hearing and be allowed to move back to the home country.

I point out whenever I work on such cases that the children’s best interest is defined legally, which means it is seldom exactly what the mother wants.
The first condition is that the children should stay in the family home, so whoever is granted custody of them gets to live there and the other spouse must move out.
The second thing is to define the type of custody needed. Today the norm is alternate and hence equal custody. This means the children stay one week with the father and one week with the mother. Of course, this requires the parents to live close enough so the children can go to the same school. That is clearly not your current choice.
Thus the judge has to evaluate which spouse is best suited to be the primary parent, with the other getting some visiting rights. This decision is needed when one parent wants to move to their home country. Since that is not the norm by default, and standard visitation rights cannot be applied in such a case, the non-French parent needs to give serious and very compelling arguments to win the right to move back to their home country and take the children.
The third consideration is what environment will be best for the children. Here I agree that a French judge is likely to be biased in favor of France.
One of the first cases I worked with closely involved an American conservative Christian woman who owned several Bibles, including a couple of study Bibles since she enjoyed Bible studies. The French husband managed to get the judge to rule repeatedly that she needed psychological evaluation to determine if she had been indoctrinated into being part of a cult, which by French standards would make her an unfit mother. She was very patient, enduring all this silently and being carefully advised by her lawyer. It was humiliating because she was evaluated through a French bias. In the end, the judge ruled that she could move back to the USA with her daughter. Thanks in part to the team supporting her, she managed to trust the system even though it was difficult.
My advice to you is to remember that this is a court proceeding in which the ruling will have to comply with the applicable law and the documents submitted by both parties. This is not the best way to take into consideration, first and foremost, the emotional and psychological aspects of the situation for all parties involved. Today efforts are made to reflect those aspects in the proceeding, but it still is a court case that must follow the rule of law.


The four-year carte de séjour in the passeport talent category offers a great deal of security because it lasts so long. But if you thought the previous file was complicated to put together, the one for renewal demands even more. You need to attest to both the past – your career during those four years, to secure the right to renew your immigration status – and the future: new projects you are working on, engagements and gigs signed for, and so on. In short, this time you will submit two files instead of one. The current guidelines are that you should start four months in advance.
Here, in more detail, is what will be expected of you:
1 – The past. Compile four years of what you have done professionally. Organize the documents in chronological order and separate them per year. Like last time, nearly anything can be used to prove your activity – posters and flyers about concerts, reviews (even bad ones!) in the media, plus, of course, official evidence such as pay slips and contracts. This part of the file also needs to detail the income you got performing, teaching and coaching during at least the last 12 months. I would go so far as to showing all of 2023, including the French income declaration and ideally the related avis d’imposition. Remember, to comply with the requirements you must earn at least the minimum wage, so provide your last four avis d’imposition to help to prove this.
2 – The future. This part of the file mirrors exactly what you did the last time. I know it is often difficult to come up with concerts and gigs scheduled a long time in advance. But email exchanges proving that you are in negotiations for engagements could make up the vast majority of what you submit. If you are rehearsing with other musicians, have them write a statement testifying that you are really working on this project. Since I assume you will provide evidence of a good track record, your projections will be a lot easier to believe and be taken at face value.
However, I would like to suggest what I believe is a better solution in many ways: asking for a carte de résident.
First, you have been in France for five fiscal years. I assume you declared your revenue to France starting in 2019 and you will have declared your 2023 revenue. Again, the taxable income must be at least French minimum wage at that time. The declaration of the 2019 revenue should include any money earned in the USA and taxed there, otherwise it is going to be difficult to show the minimum required earnings, although if not, the first half of 2024 could compensate for this situation. The request for a carte de résident must always involve writing a letter accompanying the request. It can be a short paragraph detailing the ways you comply with the requested level of integration.
Interestingly enough, for some people, probably including you, it may be easier to request the next level of immigration – i.e., the carte de résident – rather than just to renew the existing immigration status. This is assuming that, after all your years in France and with about a year to get ready, you will be able to pass the A2 level French test.


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